2013 MITSUBISHI ASX REVIEW
What’s hot: Value for money buying with a torquey diesel and good auto
What’s not: Seat cushions could use better sculpting, slow to accelerate from standing start
X-Factor: The best ASX variant by far, and an enticing small SUV option overall.
Vehicle style: Small SUV
Price: ASX DiD 4x4 Auto $31,990; ASX Aspire DiD 4X4 Auto $36,490
Engine/trans: 110kW/360Nm 2.2 turbo diesel | 6spd hydraulic auto
Fuel economy listed: 5.8 l/100km | tested: 7.1 l/100km
Unlike Europe, the Australian car market is dominated by automatics. It’s a fact that’s been a headache for Mitsubishi, which has endured disappointing sales with its manual-only 1.8 litre turbodiesel ASX small SUV.
In recent times, diesel ASX sales have accounted for just five percent of total volume, despite the diesel offering substantially more torque than the standard 2.0 litre petrol engine.
But salvation is here at last.
Mitsubishi has now introduced not only a more palatable diesel into the 2013 ASX range, but one matched to very nice automatic. Better still, it comes with a whopping 60Nm more torque than the existing 1.8 litre diesel manual.
The ASX DiD automatic comes with all the exterior and interior tweaks that were bestowed upon the ASX range in August last year.
Those enhancements bought with them some extra chrome-effect trim, a new steering wheel design with more user-friendly audio and cruise controls, plus Mitsubishi’s updated touchscreen audio interfaces.
The range-topping ASX Aspire DiD also boasts a huge panoramic glass roof (for some extra showroom “wow factor”) and sat nav as standard, whereas it’s a cost option on the petrol ASX Aspire.
Also standard for both diesel automatic models is a reversing camera, with the camera display now in the audio head unit, having migrated from the rear view mirror.
Rounding out the standard feature list is iPod compatability and USB audio input, plus Bluetooth audio and phone integration
We spent most of our time in the Aspire, and while we were happy with the padded surfaces on the door trims and dashboard, we were less-impressed by the seats.
The leather upholstery is slippery, and the cushioning much too firm and lacking support for the lower back.
After a long period behind the wheel, we were less than comfortable. But the rest of the cabin is perfectly fine for the average young family.
It’s the perfect size in fact for two adults and two kids, although don’t count on getting more than one full-sized pram in the ASX’s 416 litre boot.
ON THE ROAD
With 110kW and 360Nm under the bonnet - it should go alright, yes? Well, yes indeed, but it's more sluggish off the line than we expected (there’s a BIG pause before the diesel wakes up).
Once moving though, the ASX DiD auto’s 2.2 litre turbo diesel delivers plenty of urge.
Mitsubishi says peak torque is available between 1500-2750rpm, but our experience was that it felt strongest from 1800rpm. There’s a thick slab of torque that straddles 2000rpm, and this is where the 2.2 diesel is happiest.
And the six-speed hydraulic automatic (all ASX petrol autos use a CVT, another point of difference) is well-matched with the diesel and mostly keeps the engine spinning within this sweet spot.
Occasionally however we thought it seemed too eager to downshift, instead of just using the engine’s bountiful torque.
That said, from the suburbs of Adelaide to the surrounding highways and winding backroads, the ASX diesel auto didn’t disappoint.
It was especially satisfying to use the column-mounted shift paddles to manually select gears; keeping it in high gears and squeezing the accelerator to surf the ASX’s wave of torque.
While not the noisiest diesel SUV around, diesel clatter is quite apparent from behind the wheel. Road noise isn't too bad though, and the engine quietens down a lot when cruising at low rpm.
One feature that tickled our fancy was the AWD system.
The ASX’s all-paw drivetrain can be locked in 4WD mode to speeds beyond 100km/h - something you can't do with the mainly FWD-biased AWD systems in competitor vehicles.
If you're on a slippery road and you want some extra peace of mind, all you need to do is key the 4WD button a couple of times and relax in the knowledge that power is being taken to all four wheels constantly, rather than just when traction is lost at the front.
A “4WD Auto” mode is there if you prefer a slightly less fuel-hungry drivetrain profile, while the default setting keeps the ASX in FWD mode until slip is encountered.
At launch, we saw an average fuel consumption of 7.1 l/100km. Respectable, but nowhere near close to the listed claim of 5.8 l/100km (which is 0.1 l/100km thirstier than the 1.8 diesel manual)
Our drive however had us on tight steep roads; more normal use would likely see ASX getting a lot closer to the Mitsubishi mark.
We’ll have to wait until a longer test to see how the ASX diesel auto performs for economy in a week of real-world driving.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
At $31,990 for the base ASX DiD auto, Mitsubishi’s latest diesel SUV is the second-cheapest diesel auto in the small SUV segment. It’s a compelling price point, especially considering the price leader - the Ssangyong Korando SX auto - is just $1000 cheaper.
There's no 2WD diesel variant of the ASX, either in manual or auto. But, with such competitive pricing, who needs it?
The ASX DiD automatic is a good deal not just in the context of its segment, but also against the other models in the ASX range.
The 2.2 litre diesel and six-speed automatic is the best powertrain pairing in the range: you won't find it breaking into a sweat with five people and their cargo aboard.
For an affordable, relatively compact family SUV with plenty of grunt but little thirst, it’s hard to top the Mitsubishi ASX DiD automatic.
Want a little more luxury? The ASX Aspire DiD auto delivers plenty, and at $36,490 it’s an attractive buy against the higher-featured diesel versions of the Hyundai ix35 and Kia Sportage.
Mitsubishi reckons it will sell around 150 ASXs per month in diesel automatic trim - it won’t surprise us if it sells double that number.
Pricing (excluding on-road costs)
- 2013 ASX 2WD 2.0 petrol manual - $25,990
- 2013 ASX 2WD 2.0 petrol auto - $28,240
- 2013 ASX 2WD 2.0 petrol Aspire manual - $28,990
- 2013 ASX 2WD 2.0 petrol Aspire auto - $31,240
- 2013 ASX 4WD 2.0 petrol Aspire auto - $34,990
- 2013 ASX 4WD 2.2 DiD auto - $31,990
- 2013 ASX 4WD 2.2 DiD Aspire auto - $36,490